Santa Paula: Riders Say Valley Transit a Bust

 By Sheryl Hamlin

Opened two years ago on a rainy day, the Valley Transit has not developed a following. Testimony at the Ventura County Transit Commission’s 2017 Unmet Transit Needs meeting held at the March 20, 2017 Santa Paula Council meeting agreed that the Valley Transit did not provide reliable transit. Issues such as unreliable schedules, unhelpful drivers, ADA ramps unusable, Valley Transit phone operators untrained in location of stops, no benches at stops, no shade at stops were all mentioned.

Joseph Alexander said in a letter read by Vice Mayor Gherardi that in only 4 times out of 81 calls to Dial-a-ride was he able to book a ride because the service was reportedly full.

Below Alfonso Gamino, Santa Paula Unified School District Supervisor, volunteers to translate for a bus rider who says the system does not appear to have enough service, nor are there benches with shelter from sun and rain.

Alfonso Gamino translates for frustrated rider

During the discussion, Vice Mayor Gherardi, who was formerly the Executive Director of VCTC, said that the citizens were mentioning “operational issues” rather than “unmet needs”. To this, Council Member Hernandez took issue saying that with 99% empty buses, the service had “no economic value”.

Richard Rudman made a statement about needing a “Transit Hub” for East Area 1, describing features in the hub. With 1500 homes, he said, the effect of car trips will be problematic for SR 126. To which, Vice Mayor said that when the homes are built, there will be a “bus stop”.

However, a “Bus Stop” is not a “Transit Hub” as described by Mr. Rudman. A “Hub” carries the notion of interconnection where multiple transit agencies stop concurrently, passengers transfer, drivers rest, and buses or trains catch up on their schedules. A coffee station would allow passengers and drivers time to rest, while vendors of notions and books would generate sales tax revenue. There should also be parking nearby or a shuttle to a lot. Agencies to be included would be a west valley Airporter service, Amtrak and Metrolink connections, as well as transit to Santa Clarita where many is Santa Paula work. As the General Plan updates in both Santa Paula and Ventura County are in progress, planning for a robust county transit system should be included because transportation is key to economic development.

In the audience, Ben Turner, a representative from Ventura Directional Drilling, summed up the situation from the citizen point of view. Below is a synopsis of his statement:

There appears to be an information disconnect between what the public who ride the buses are saying and what the people who manage the systems are understanding … information not filtering down … hearing about bus drivers who won’t help, large empty vehicles. I used to work for a transportation and highways division in England and without sending out expensive surveys we had every type of information because the bus driver would log every passenger. If you know how many passengers are on each route on each bus and you know salaries and the costs to run the buses, wouldn’t that inform everybody involved where the monies are spent and where it could be better spent? … I am wondering if the gentleman from the division would return with a comprehensive report about the system presented by those with technical knowledge of the system to identify where each dollar is to spent. … The bus system in the US doesn’t serve the people as it does in Europe… obviously people in this community are suffering, no ability to get to hospital appointments, empty buses. It would probably be cheaper to buy each rider an Uber and still be saving money ….

Martin Erickson, Public Transit Director, represented VCTC at this meeting. His contact information is here.

For more information about author visit sherylhamlin dot com

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